Finding Music to Demo

The one question that I get asked the most frequently, whether by clients or coworkers is “How do you find music for demonstration purposes?” or “What music do you use to test speakers?”. I simple say well I just find music that I like, but in reality that’s not the correct answer. I slave over my music choices; I obsess over it. To the point where I don’t stop listening to music. It’s a good problem to have, honestly. My choice in music varies from bands I grew up listening to like; the Beatles, Eagles, and Doobie Brothers to music that recently came out such as Drake, Calvin Harris, and the Black Keys. What I have come to learn is that it’s not about the type of music, but the flow and lyrics of the music itself.

First and foremost a song has to have meaning. The first song that I ever demoed for a client was Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”. Mainly due to that’s what I learned from my mentor and it was easy for me to demo. But it was a good choice because the song has a story that’s meaningful. In music that you want to demo for clients and to test speakers, those songs need to tell a story. The song hurt was originally written and recorded by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and he wrote the song because he had lost a few friends to drug overdose most notably Kurt Cobain, and this was helping him cope and deal with his feelings. Johnny did his rendition of the song a week after June, the love of his life, had passed away. You can feel all of Johnny’s raw emotion as he’s singing and it wafts over you throughout the song. Johnny actually passed away a few weeks after the song came out and it is viewed as a final I love you from Johnny to June. This is the type of storytelling that I use when I demo music for clients on speakers. This is something that I find a lot of sales people miss out on, the attention to detail in the song choices they make.

Now with all that story telling out of the way. The first thing I ask anyone that i’m giving a demo to is “what kind of music do you like?” now if I can relate to the type of music they like to a song I demo, then I use that song, if not I use one of my favorites and then move into what they like to listen to. Depending on the speakers and the client I can use a multitude of songs, but this is a good portion of my demo playlist;

  • Johnny Cash – Hurt (Trent Reznor Cover)
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – Slow Cheetah
  • Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc.
  • Hank Williams III – Country Heros
  • Gary Clark Jr. – Things Are Changin’ (Live)
  • Slightly Stoopid – Collie-Man
  • Muse – Madness
  • Beyonce – Partition
  • Dave Matthews Band – Ants Marching
  • Lowdown – Boz Scaggs
  • Sturgill Simpson – In Bloom (Nirvana Cover)

So that is a list of 11 songs that I use for speaker demos as well as testing speakers. I have a running playlist of about 50 songs, that I can use for a plethora of music genres. I also find songs whether form friends, television, or just scouring the internet and radio. I always listen to the song for a few days on my headphones and my system at home before I even bring into the store in order to test it there for demo purposes. I believe in perfecting my craft, so my clients can get the most of their experience and they can truly hear the speakers.

The moral of this blog post is that you need to find music that you like and can learn about in order to know what to listen for when testing speakers or what to tell a client to listen to when demonstrating the music to them. I genuinely listen to very strange range of music but the most important this is I genuinely love music and I love what I do and I believe that people pick up on that.

All right citizens! What do you think? What type of music do you listen to when testing speakers? What’s your favorite track? Let me know if the comments section!

What I’m listening to this week – Suicide Squad Soundtrack
What I’m Watching this week – Stranger Things (Gonna try and finish it)

 

The Z Series Cometh!

Citizens!

This post will be a short post, since we don’t know too much information about this latest foe in my crime fighting career. Sony announced last week a new television model that surely will blow us away!

Here is what we know so far:
– 3 sizes 65, 75, & 100 inches
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-65 inch $5,999.99
-75 inch $9,999.99
-100 inch price is unavailable
– Sony 4K Backlight Master Drive
– Sony X1 Extreme Processor
– HDR 4K
– Smart (Android TV)
– 3D (in full HD)

 

So here’s what that means for you citizens. The 4K backlight master drive actually made it’s debut at CES 2016 where it took everyone by surprise and stole the show. From what we saw at CES the master drive had better color and black levels than the LG OLEDs. It definitely has the stats to back the claims up. But we won’t be able to truly know if it’s the Sony flagship that we hope it is until it is out in the streets causing havoc! Expect this television to be in a Best Buy store near you by summer’s end, with the 100 inch model coming out later this year!

Also as soon as I can get my hands on the television I will have a review and hopefully and unboxing.

 

What I’m Listening to this week – Johnny Cash (The Man Comes Around)
What I’m Watching this week – The Resurrection of Jake the Snake Roberts on Netflix

 

Picture courtesy of Sony via http://www.sony.com/electronics/televisions/xbr-z9d-series

To Receiver or not to receiver that is the question?

Hello Citizens! Once again I’m back to give you a review on some new product! This week’s review will be a 2-For-1! This week we have the Pioneer Elite VSX-LX101 and VSX-LX301. These are two new additions to the Pioneer Elite family and they are both 7.2 surround audio/video receivers. So this week’s looks like a tough battle for your Masked Audiophile, but it looks like I can handle this pair of new criminals in the city. 

First up is the set-up, I had both of the receivers hooked up to my iPhone with an Audioquest lightning cable. I tested these receivers on the Bowers & Wilkins M1, 683, CM1, and CM9. I like to test receivers on the Bowers & Wilkins brand because to me I know the speakers are accurate, so the receiver will have to work its magic in order to impress me. 

The set-up for both of these receivers was really easy. I did not set it up through the onboard menu, I have my speakers already set the way I need them in my room. So I don’t feel it necessary to go the GUI (graphic user interface). But if this is your first receiver or your setting up a new room I highly suggest you use it. 

So here’s the specs for both receivers
VSX-LX101
– 80 watts per channel @ 8 ohms
– Discrete direct energy amp design
– AirPlay
 GoogleCast and Tidal streaming (soon with firmware update) 
– Dolby Atmos 
– 4k 60p pass through 
– HDMI 6 in/1 out 

What’s different on the VSX-LX301
– 100 watts per channel @ 8 ohms
– HDMI 7 in (1 front)/1 out 

So not too much of a difference between the two models. The specs for both of these receivers just aren’t there compared to older models. To me, there is much difference in last year’s vsx-45 and vsx-70 models. In my eyes, looking at the specs I don’t see a reason to upgrade from last year to this year. On the other hand, the sound that came out was pretty standard from a Pioneer Elite. 

When testing the sound, the wattage was really only good for the M1s and CM1s. (These are satellite and bookshelf speakers) When it came to the tower speakers though, it was a different story. The towers peaked to easily which is not good if you like listening to loud music. I would only recommend using these receivers for stereo sound if you’re running tower speakers. I always recommend separate amps for towers and love using Bowers & Wilkins sister company Rotel, but it’s quite expensive. But using this receiver to run a 2.1, 3.1 or 5.1 M1 setup is actually great. I can also see this receiver being used with Definitive Technologies PC600/PC800 package. But back to reality, when it came to the tower speakers, there was a ton of sound left out compared to when I use my VSX-70 which is 3 years old or when I’m at work and use the Marantz SR7010. 

All in all, I believe as an entry-level receiver for a beginning audiophile are someone who just wants a simpler setup I would recommend these receivers. But if you are a true audiophile and have had home theaters and stereo systems before I suggest that you at least wait for this year’s SC-LX501. Which will be out later in the summer. With the 101 priced at $500 and the 301 priced at $700, there are plenty of other options out there. 

Rating
VSX-LX101 — 3 Masks out of 5
VSX-LX301 — 3.5 Masks out 5 

Hope this review helps you out in your fight against bad technology I know this caped crusader, threw these criminals into jail. 

What I’m listening to this week?
New Song   – Dark Necessities (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Old Song     – Madness (Muse)
Demo Song – Soulshine Vol. 1 (Govt. Mule

What I’m watching this week?
Movie          – Batman Vs. Superman
TV                – Huang’s World (Viceland)
Netflix         – Orange Is The New Black 

Samsung’s New Flagship, Won’t Be Sailing into My Home

Citizens! I posted earlier in the week on my Instagram (@themaskedaudiophile) that I was working on a review for the new Samsung UN78KS9800. Well, the time has come to do said review. If you don’t know about this television yet, sit back and enjoy learning about it.

This year Samsung decided to try to knock out this masked home theater crusader, but alas I still believe they have some work to do especially in the price category. At first glance this television is a beauty. It’s big, it’s bright, and it’s vivid! It has all the things you want in a television for you home theater. It’s 78 inch curved screen is pretty amazing if you ask me. Now with that being said, the television is also a full array panel. Thus, making this television a top contender for best television on the market. A full array panel allows the colors and black levels to be on par with the OLEDs and old plasma televisions. A full array panel is LED backlighting that covers the entire panel on the television. It allows for a ton more control on the local dimming, contrast, and color. Samsung along with Sony, both have full array panels this year, not to be confused with Vizio whom has a few backlit televisions that aren’t full array. The colors pop on this television without a doubt and the blacks are super detailed. We can all thank the full array panel for that.

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Horrible timing for this picture, but look at how big this television is! 

Being that the television is in the 9000 series of Samsung we do have the 10-bit panel and the super motion 240. The 10-bit panel will allow roughly 64 million shades of color that a traditional 8-bit panel. The super motion 240 on the other hand is really neat. It bridges the traditional black frame, between your a-frame and b-frame, with essentially a a.5-frame. It makes motion simulation really smooth. This television has no issue handling fast movements like sports (watched soccer) and action (watched star wars the force awakens) I went from regular antenna television all the way to watching 4k HDR discs on the Samsung 4K player. All in all, the television preformed extremely well and it looked absolutely spectacular. The only way I didn’t test it was for gaming.

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The good! This television is absolutely stunning. If you’re looking for a television that will feel like a movie theater this is it. The color is off the charts on the television.

The bad! When it comes to the motion and the black levels on this television I found it to be lacking. The black levels are not as good as the OLED or the Sony 940D in my opinion. The motion is also not as smooth as the Sony 940D which I put through the same paces as the 9800. I do however believe the 65 inch version of the 9800 does have better motion than the 78 inch version.

The ugly (Oh and I mean UGLY)! The price point on this television is not justifiable. The 78 inch version is a cool $9,999.98 and the 65 inch version is a less but still modest amount of $4599.98. Now normally I would say hey great televisions at a great price and the 65 inch I would agree more since the OLED in 65 inch is about $6,000, but when Sony has a 75 inch full array panel that currently is on sale for $5,999.99 I cannot in good faith recommend the Samsung. I don’t see how the price is justified in this television, maybe we will see a price drop like we did with previous and other models in the line-up, but I don’t foresee it happening soon.

All-in-all I will give this television 3 masks out of 5. Due to the price point and the lack black levels not being on par with its tiered competitors in other brands. My opinion save $4,000 and purchase the XBR75X940D from Sony, it’s 3 inches smaller but it has amazing black levels and color!

Citizens! This week we talked about televisions and I hope you enjoyed it just as much as I enjoyed watching everything on such a big screen! So normally I would say what I listening to this week, but since this is a television review, here’s what I’m watching this week.
In theaters – Finding Dory (It’s incredible, potentially better than the original…)
On Blu-Ray – Zootopia
On Netflix – Janis: Little Girl Blue
On Television – Game of Thrones (I finally started watching it)

Look forward to some more posts on the Instagram account and a post either this weekend or next week on the Amazon Echo. Alexa is to me is like Tony Stark’s Jarvis, but much less sophisticated. They should make a Jarvis mode, maybe a special edition Iron Man Echo when Iron Man 4 comes out. I really should send that idea to someone.

 

Well, until next time citizens, be safe out there when sitting and enjoying your home theater.

Definitive Technology A90 Unboxing

Citizens! So after a great, but not complete review of the Definitive Technology BP9000 series. I finally got my hands on the final piece to the weapon of this fight. The Dolby Atmos A90 attachment speakers. Let me tell you they are just as beautiful as the rest of the BP9000 series. I love the way they flawlessly integrate with the rest of the speaker. These speakers definitely add a sense of future to the rest of the speakers. Well that and Dolby Atmos is pretty epic if you haven’t heard it yet.

A quick rundown on what Dolby Atmos is. Dolby Atmos is the newest iteration of surround sound decoding from Dolby Digital, it adds an essential height dimension that many people miss in their home theaters. The best way to explain it, why do you go to the movies to watch a movie? The sound is unreal, correct? For me it is, I have a 4K television and it’s like being at the theater, but what I miss at home are those booms and cracks that can only be delivered in a theater. Well Dolby Atmos helps deliver that. By add height speakers in the center of the room it adds a whole new dimension of sound. Ever wonder what a TIE fighter screaming by you sounds like? Or the whoosh of a baseball being hit out the park sounds like? You can with Dolby Atmos. You can enhance your traditional 5.1 surround sound to 5.1.2 as well as your 7.1 surround sound can become 7.1.2. You have to hear it to believe it. Here’s some pictures of what a set-up would look like taken from Dolby.com.

So now that is out of the way, we can continue with the unboxing! Eventually I will be setting up a youtube channel to do these unboxing at home for you to all see live, but with the blog just starting out, I want to provide you all with the best content I can right here. So here are the pictures from the unbxoing. IMG_2106IMG_2107IMG_2108IMG_2109IMG_2110IMG_2111

As you can see from the pictures these speakers look flawless and then the sound quality really gets going once you hook up the A90 Atmos attachments!

Hope you all enjoyed this post as much as I had unboxing. If you are looking into Dolby Atmos, let me know in the comments and we can talk about it! Also if you have Dolby Atmos and want to reccomend some movies for others that would be amazing. But for now as the post comes to a close I really enjoyed seeing the whole BP9000 series set-up in all of its glory. I still don’t have the rear channels, but that’s a different story. In this fight against bad home theaters and technology one can never be too careful. Hope you have a good week citizens.

 

What I’m watching in Dolby Atmos
– Pixels
– Unboken
– Deadpool
– Ender’s Game

Look out next week when I have my review for the new Samsung UN78KS9800 it’s samsung top of the line full-array 4K LED television that I have some choice words about.