Dear Steve Lukather …

life / listening to
Great music that sounds like shit.

Toto put out a fabulous album a few months ago.

21st Century Blues“, with Keith shufflin’ the hell out of the tune, is perhaps my favorite song of the past many years.

Really.
Fabulous.
Stuff.

Shades of Steely Dan, great writing, and you are absolutely fabulous on it.
Did I say how much I like that tune?

Why the f*ck did you allow the absolutely shoddy, atrocious and painful mastering of said release? What the hell rode you? I know you defended the CD’s sound with bloody knuckles on Facebook and although I wonder why the hell you did that, I respect that you took the time. It was close to your heart … and all of that.

Still, the whole CD sounds like someone had sonic constipation.
The music you invested so much lifeblood in sounds like someone shat on it.
Shat.
On.
It.

And that’s coming from someone who is quite forgiving when it comes to the sonic appearance of music he likes.

Don’t trust your own ears.
Do it over.
Fix it.

Don’t let your music go down the sonic chute of oblivion.

Thanks for listening.
And keep on writing great stuff.
Love it.

Volkher

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

currently watching / life
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Just when I had given up on films altogether, along came this little gem of a film that I liked a lot better than “The Fault in Our Stars” (2014), a film it is naturally being compared to.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” (2015) not only has an intelligent, imaginative and witty script, it also boasts an ensemble that turned it into, yes, a charming little film about friendship, adolescence, dying … and a lot more in between.

Filmed on a comparative shoe-string budget (a mere $5 million) in just about 4 weeks, it isn’t perfect, but it sure as hell easily beats the pants off any and all of these studio franchise tentpoles that I (and hopefully others) am (are) so incredibly sick and tired of.

Certainly worth your time (and repeated viewing), if you are so inclined.

Audio Notebook

life / listening to / new electronics
My desktop wallpaper.

After almost two full days of bending Windows 7 to my will, I have a nearly perfect “audio notebook” running next to my cherished Marantz stereo system (PM-14S1 and SA-14S1).

The other day I wrote about the complexities of getting flawless HiRes playback on this somewhat dated notebook utilizing Foobar2000 and my Marantz audio driver, today I finally completed the “downsizing” of what was originally meant to be a work laptop to one that runs nothing but audio (almost).

Every single byte of unnecessary software was de-installed, indexing, prefetch and a ton of other (hidden and visible) system services and scheduled tasks were shut down permanently, a bunch of persistent errors were fixed, and boot-up time was maximized. The final step was to maximize and defragment disk space in order to stuff the (comparatively small 500GB) drive with HiRes music as well as the very best-sounding CDs that I have.

It is unbelievable how complex a job like that can easily become. Windows systems are highly complex and overflowing with automated services that are deeply integrated and difficult to trace (both on- and offline).

If you just want to use a notebook like the one I have to

  • boot up,
  • start Foobar2000 and
  • be ready to play just about any audio file (HiRes or not),

the steps necessary to achieve that goal can become quite daunting.

What I did was to “freeze” the notebook “in time“; it won’t go online anymore and it won’t be used for any kind of work whatsoever. Updates will not be necessary from here on and neither will virus checks (a waste of resources anyway if you are a bit careful), fax services, reporting tasks, remote access, extensive error logs, etc. Nothing. Everything was moved to the great beyond (=trash).

In short, I have turned this particular machine into a stationary CD player and I probably learned more about Windows systems than I have ever before … and I thought I had already tried and done everything these past decades.

Because I had some time, I manged to either browse through or read nearly 300 blog and help articles and, while doing so and trying things out, I had to constantly consult the Windows help and error databases and live through about 80 – 90 reboots (which became more and more painless as I went along).

Booting into the system is almost lightening-fast now, Foobar is loaded in full-screen mode and all I need to do is “click“. After 48 hours of putting it through its paces, I finally have one single Windows system that doesn’t piss me off.

Done.

P.S.: The featured image for this post is the one luxury I allowed myself next to a bare-bones Rainmeter running on the desktop … my desktop wallpaper (downloaded from here and adapted), which is consistent across all of my machines.

We’re gonna have to work on our communication.

currently watching / life / words
Independence Day (1996).

Captain Steven Hiller: [after reversing into the rear wall] Oops.
David Levinson: W-what do you mean, oops?
Captain Steven Hiller: Some jerk put this…
[Turns the piece of paper round]
Captain Steven Hiller: the wrong way round.
David Levinson: Don’t say “oops“.
Captain Steven Hiller: What do you say we try that again?
David Levinson: Yes, yes. Yes. Without the “oops“. Thataway.
[Points forward]

[… a bit later]

David Levinson: They’re bringing us in.
Captain Steven Hiller: When the hell was you gonna tell me?
David Levinson: Oops.
Captain Steven Hiller: We’re gonna have to work on our communication.

Note: The (only) redeeming quality of the totally campy “Independence Day” (1996) were the exchanges between Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith. Love those few minutes and the above is one of my favorite movie quotes.

With Smith out of the picture for the sequel, … thanks, but no thanks.

Flawless USB HiRes Playback with the Marantz SA-14S1 and Foobar2000

life / listening to / new electronics
High Resolution audio.

One of the best things about the Marantz SA-14S1 is its USB-DAC (USB-B) plug in the back. It’s one of the reasons I opted for this model, besides the fact that I’ve always been a Marantz guy.

What I wanted to do was seemingly simple. Because I rip all of my music (regular CDs, SACDs … and even some LPs) to my PC’s harddisk, and because I have quite a few HiRes downloads, I wanted to permanently connect my notebook to the SA-14S1 via my favorite player, Foobar2000, to play the best of them at a mouse click.

Once you figured it out, it’s deceptively simple, but until that point, it can be frustrating.

Here’s how it works, and I’m also posting this as a reminder to myself as the two sources I consulted (a post on computeraudiophile.com by Ned Kelly and Michael Lavorgna’s instructions on audiostream.com) to get it all running might well be up in smoke when the next Windows re-installation orgy rolls around and I have to set all of it up again.

***

Step 01:
Install the Marantz USB-DAC driver, which can be downloaded from the Marantz homepage. Once installed, you need to select it in File -> Preferences -> Output as the output driver to use. Note: Interestingly enough, on my machine that driver only showed up once the Marantz SA-14S1 was connected and running. No idea why (and quite baffeling), but when you complete the next steps, it becomes obsolete anyway.

Step 02:
Dowload the ASIO output plugin for Foobar2000 from the foobar website. Make sure to copy the foo_out_asio.fb2k-component to the Foobar2000 “components” folder! For those interested, heed the notice on that download page: “Please note that this component is meant for systems where ASIO is the only available output method. It is highly recommended to use the default output modes instead of ASIO. Contrary to popular “audiophile” claims, there are NO benefits from using ASIO as far as music playback quality is concerned, while bugs in ASIO drivers may severely degrade the performance.

Step 03:
Download the SACD decoder plugin for Foobar2000 from sourceforge.net, unpack the downloaded .zip-file and run the ASIOProxyInstall.exe file. This “[…] decoder is capable of playing back Super Audio CD ISO images, DSDIFF and DSF files. Direct DSD playback for compatible devices.

Step 04:
Once the ASIO install is completed, copy the foo_input_sacd.dll from that same download to the Foobar2000 “components” folder.

Step 05:
Activate ASIO by going into File -> Preferences -> Components to select Playback -> Output -> ASIO where, in the list of drivers, you select “foo_dsd_asio“. If you double-click that entry, you will be able to select the Marantz driver (Marantz USB Audio, for example) in the new window’s “ASIO Driver” dropdown. Select “DoP Marker 0x05/0xFA” as the “DSD Playback Method” in the same window. At the end, make sure that the “64-bit ASIO drivers” checkbox is ticked if you are on a 64bit system.

Done.

Step 06:
There are a couple of settings you can play with; for example, in Tools -> SACD I set the ASIO driver mode to “DSD” and, when I stumbled over 3-channel tracks that didn’t run on my stereo setup, I selected “stereo” as the general output mode. All of these and other settings might vary on whatever system you have and it does help to familiarize yourself with the various ASIO and SACD settings.

***

Finally, just because all of this works with this particular Marantz driver on this notebook doesn’t mean you don’t have to take a different route on whatever your gear of choice is.

As I am writing this, every single HiRes file I’ve played in the background has the corresponding correct display on my Marantz SA-14S1. All the sample- and bitrates are displayed accurately.

To put it into the words of Dr. Okun from the movie Independence Day:

The neatest stuff has only happened in the last few days. […]. But since these guys started showing up, all the little gizmos inside turned on. (laughs) The last 24 hours have been really exciting.

Cool stuff.

Here’s to Rio Reiser

life / listening to
Rio Reiser.

For all my English-speaking readers:

I grew up internationally and made tons of friends way back when. At the time, aeons ago, the German music scene largely passed me by …. from the middle 70s until the middle 80s, and much of what came before and after that period never really manged to tickle my fancy, in the least.

But.

Rio Reiser (1950-1996), who died much too early, has always been one of my favorite singers, no matter what nationality.

We are not talking musical excellence here (although really everything he did gets my musical juices flowing) in the sense of musical perfection; what we are talking about is an amazing social conscience and an astute sense of the German (obese) soul. In my book, Rio Reiser was the only German singer / musician/ multi-instrumentalist who ever wrote consistently excellent songs. We have (had) many other fabulous bands around here, but Rio Reiser had a unique way of putting things into perspective, from a decidedly leftist/independent vantage point.

The latter part of his career, which is highlighted here by the lyrics below, has garnered quite a bit of flack for having been “a sell-out” when compared to his former strong association with German squatters, the entire left-wing student and workers movement,  and a political spectrum that is practically demonized today.

If you feel like it, watch the video (at the very end of this post) in all its 80s glory and follow a couple of links I placed in the lyrics … but be aware that many things will only make sense if you happen to have been a child of the 70s/80s … and know some/a lot of German and … Germans.

Rio Reiser is one of the very few people I would have liked to meet and never had a chance to.
We would probably have fought to the teeth over issues.
Most likely, it would have been a bloody affair.

One of the greatest German personalities of the last century.
I miss his perspective.

He is and was one of my heroes.

***

The song below hearkens back to the time when people like me couldn’t sleep at night because of individuals like Helmut Kohl, Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher, without having any sympathy for anachronistic people like Helmut Schmidt, German TV personalities, “Heimatfilme” and all that happy-go-lucky BS that tried to sugar-coat what was happening to … people.

***

König Von Deutschland

Jede Nacht um halb eins, wenn das Fernseh’n rauscht,
leg’ ich mich aufs Bett und mal mir aus,
wie es wäre, wenn ich nicht der wäre, der ich bin,
sondern Kanzler, Kaiser, König oder Königin.

Ich denk mir, was der Kohl da kann, das kann ich auch.
Ich würd’ Vivaldi hör’n tagein tagaus.
Ich käm’ viel rum, würd’ nach USA reisen,
Ronny mal wie Waldi in die Waden beißen.

Das alles, und noch viel mehr
würd’ ich machen, wenn ich König von Deutschland wär’
Ohhh …
Das alles, und noch viel mehr
würd’ ich machen, wenn ich König von Deutschland wär’

Ich würd’ die Krone täglich wechseln, würde zweimal baden,
würd’ die Lottozahlen eine Woche vorher sagen.
Bei der Bundeswehr gäb’ es nur noch Hitparaden,
ich würd’ jeden Tag im Jahr Geburtstag haben.
Im Fernsehen gäb’ es nur noch ein Programm:
Robert Lembke vierundzwanzig Stunden lang.
Ich hätte zweihundert Schlösser und wär’ nie mehr pleite.
Ich wär’ Rio der Erste, Sissi die Zweite.

Das alles, und noch viel mehr
würd’ ich machen, wenn ich König von Deutschland wär’
Ohhh
Das alles, und noch viel mehr
würd’ ich machen, wenn ich König von Deutschland wär’

Die Socken und die Autos dürften nicht mehr stinken,
ich würd’ jeden Morgen erst mal ein Glas Schampus trinken.
Ich wär’ chicer als der Schmidt und dicker als der Strauß,
und meine Platten kämen ganz groß raus.
Reinhard Mey wäre des Königs Barde,
Paola und Kurt Felix wären Schweizer Garde.
Vorher würd’ ich gern wissen, ob sie Spaß verstehen;
sie müßten achtundvierzig Stunden ihre Show ansehen.

Das alles, und noch viel mehr
würd’ ich machen, wenn ich König von Deutschland wär’
Ohhh
Das alles, und noch viel mehr
würd’ ich machen, wenn ich König von Deutschland wär’

Das alles, und noch viel mehr
würd’ ich machen, wenn ich König von Deutsch…
…land
… wär’

***

Video link:

***

P.S.S.: The English Wikipedia entry on Rio Reiser is, to be quite honest, a piece of sh*t.