A peak into the mind of John Hampton

How’s that new technology workin’ for you?

Why is it … that every single time a new technology (iPhone, iPad, iBulb, iWish) is introduced, we, “John Q. Public and Co., LTD. LLC”, welcome it with almost frenzied anticipation. We never think about even thinking about the repercussions it could wreak on society … or if it’s REALLY going to make life easier and/or better. Here’s a story from the London Telegraph dated June, 2011, that states that the new, hotter than sunburn “green” CFL light bulbs, the ones that are going to replace the lame, 1000-year-old, stupid, (-but-proven) bulbs … can release cancer causing … stuff. Now THAT’s progress; a giant leap toward technical excellence; a nightmarish technical PICNIC!!! Real, live, no-joke scientists, after a wagonload of studying the curly little rat inside and out, say the bulbs should never be near your head or left on!! I have one in my shower that’s been on 24/7 for over a year as my night light. But our prez sez, energy costs are going to “necessarily skyrocket”, so the CFL looks like the perfect answer! Right? Sure…. IF YOU DON’T MIND KIDS WITH 3 OR 4 EYES, OR ELEVEN THUMBS! We truly are The Apex of Thought if we move forward with this one.

See for yourself, if it’s still in the archives…..


But any new technology is going to have some “bugs” to work out before it’s really consumer-ready. I got a new MacBook recently and once I was over how really cool it looked, I noticed a not so funny anomaly …  if I touched it anywhere on it’s chassis while my other hand was operating the trackpad, out of nowhere …BOOM! I’m in a chat-room for one legged Tango dancers!

The 1995 Chevy Blazer had over 500 “Engineering Change Orders” (fixes) between 1985 and 1986.

Now the younger crowd is making a run on turntables. And USB turntables. I understood the whole turntable run when CDs first appeared AND players were finally under $200. It was then that many college radio stations had so much money tied up in vinyl, they bought one or two more lest the things “disappear” overnight. And they simply couldn’t afford a new CD to replace every vinyl LP, not to mention that at the time, every record ever made was NOT on CD also.

Case 1:Now here’s the odd part-and the crux of this second piece concerning vinyl records: We are still going through a run on turntables. Today! But now, EVERYTHING IS available in the digital format; whether a CD or a download that, to many ears, is the same “fidelity” as a CD. So why all the turntables? Well, I’ll tell you why, sonny. The average record buyer has lived with the (sub-standard) sound quality of a CD long enough to notice a difference between the CD and vinyl! Many of you have never heard a vinyl record! “But Hampton, I think CDs sound great!” And then they “prove” it by playing a great recording of a great song written by a great artist! LOUDLY! A record made by great musical minds will sound good on a laptop with toilet paper in your ears!! And/or LOUD!

An audiologist (one that studies sound) will tell you that you can “hear” from 20Hz (Hz = Hertz, the number of vibrations per second something makes, to about 20,000Hz. 20 Hz is low, low bass, like the sound of fireworks when they launch. Or when the ones with no color sparkle … just flash, then 4 or 5 seconds later …. BOOM! 20Hz! That low sound that literally moves you;  it moves your butt out of your chair when you’re in a good theater playing “Avatar”, and that first shuttle is landing. Or the volcano erupts from the La Brea Tarpits in downtown L.A. 20,000Hz is the high, high stuff like metal on metal; a cymbal crash or breaking glass contain 20,000Hz. Anything above that is what makes your dog’s head tilt to one side. Yes, there ARE vibrations up there, but our cilia in our ears are too coarse to wobble that fast. So, CD regulators made a specification that if sound higher than 22,050Hz gets recorded, an electronic circuit enters the picture and acts like a sound-cop. “STOP! If you are higher than 22,050 vibrations per second, you will NOT be included on this CD. So just go back to your cars before I turn you into distortion!” But this isn’t a bad circuit. It CAN’T be. Because it’s … a newer, better technology. Better than vinyl anyway. Right?

Well, maybe not. Scientists in Japan are now discovering that the brain reacts to sounds well above that 22,050 Hz, where whales communicate and Cicada carry on primal conversation. Even dogs hear things that we “can’t”. Or can we? Neve asks, “How do these ultra-high frequencies get inyo our nervous system? We are beginning to think it could be through the skin. Perhaps even through the etes.

Case 2: Geoff Emerick, Rupert Neve and a dodgy anecdote re module #12

Nece designs the best audio consoles around. Well, he and Peter Gabriel, the owner of Solid State Logic, another fine British console, or “desk” as the Brits call them. Rupert would drop in on Geoff every now and then just to chat it up a bit, as well as ask him how his Neve desk was behaving. Rupert noticed once that the console went from 1 to 11, then 32, then 13-31. And the module #12 was all the way at the end. When grilled about it, Emerick’s reply was simply ” I can’t really say, Rupert. I just don’t like the way that module sounds”. When Mr. Neve asked if he could take #12 to his shop and look it over, Geoff was fine with it. “I won’t be using it”.

So at the plant, Rupert had his tech team run distortion tests, intermodulation tests, frequency response test (Hz) from 20 to 25, 000 Hz. and they found absolutely nothing amiss. On a whim, Rupert got them to run a frequency response test all the way to 100,000Hz! And to their amazement, they noticed it had a rise in volume around 56,000Hz! Meaning it was adding it’s own color to the sound. But wait … if we can’t hear past 21,000Hz, what difference would a rise at 56,000 make? Neve asked his guys to find out why the rise, and they found a transformer with a 100 ohm* termination instead of 1000 ohms*. They corrected the problem, and ran the test again. Perfect. Coloration gone. He had returned the module to a state of high fidelity, or “Hi-Fi” (highly faithful reproduction of the original sound), which was always the goal. Rupert had one of the guys return the now faithful module back to Emerick.

When he dropped in on Geoff after that, the console was numbered “10,11,12,13,” ad numerum. When Geoff took a break, Rupert asked him if the module sounded better to him now. Geoff responded by asking,”You saw it’s back where it belongs, didn’t you?” ‘Nuff said. But then again, it opens an entirely new door in the study of audiology.

This story is one that Rupert Neve related at a SPARS** luncheon meet-and-greet a few years ago in New York at an AES*** convention. So what does it all mean? It means that a CD or a digital download do NOT contain all of the sound that the music is putting out there. There are frequencies well above that 22,050Hz “brick-wall” in every CD player on the planet that removes a part of the musical experience. But vinyl records can get a lot closer to “Perf-Fi” (Perfect Fidelity) if you are listening through great speakers, with a good stylus on the “tone arm”. Did you know there are styli that can reproduce up to 60,000Hz? And speakers that will reproduce well into the 30,000Hz range. Well, guess what else? ANALOG TAPE will record and reproduce up toward 50,000Hz. So…

If analog tape can record it, and vinyl can reproduce it, why in the world are we giving in to the sub-par CD, that abruptly cuts off audio that is very much a part of our everyday, especially our music? If you are one that believes music is a spiritual entity, would YOU like to see God as you understand him (or don’t) walking around on crutches?


Whew! Now THAT got deep. ………. Next question

*- An ohm is a measure of resistance to electronic current flow.
**-The Society of Professional Audio Recording Studios
***-Audio Engineering Society