Amazing Week, Day 1: Digital audio

Part of Amazing Week 2012 In 1981 I was watching the BBC TV show “Tomorrow’s World” when the CD player was first introduced to the UK. The presenter demonstrated the system, and showed how dirt and dust would simply rinse off the disc and it would still be completely playable. He talked about how the disc was read by a laser and would never wear out. I later read more about the system in hi-fi magazines.

Design simplicity

There’s an article by Donald Norman that has been stirring up controversy online. Whereas last time I thought he was wrong, this time I think he’s right—mostly.

In general, he’s correct that people don’t buy the simple, well-designed stuff. Instead, they buy the stuff that looks like it has the most features; and they tell what that is by looking at how many settings and controls it has.

Not always, though. The best exception that proves the rule is the now almost ubiquitous iPod.

Headphone amplifier + iPod = delight

If you listen to portable audio equipment a lot, you’ve probably noticed that most portable units can barely drive a set of headphones. You have to crank the volume all the way up, and even then the sound is either distorted beyond recognition, or feeble and lacking in‘kick’. This is particularly an issue with MiniDisc units and very small MP3 players. The solution to the problem is simple: you need a headphone amplifier.

The gullibility of hi-fi obsessives constantly amazes me

Today I saw a loudspeaker demagnetizing CD. Yup, the idea is that you play it, and it sends special digital signals through your loudspeakers, removing residual magnetism and hence improving sound quality. A bargain at £11.99 I swear you can sell hi-fi nuts anything if you can come up with a Star Trek explanation of how it might work.